One of the biggest criticisms of electric cars, aside from their relatively short range, is the problematic storage of used batteries. Musk, however, has decided to take that argument out of the hands of opponents.
Tesla has just released its Impact Report 2020, a report on the environmental impact of the company and its products, in which we can read that thanks to continuous advances in the recycling process, the manufacturer is now able to recover 92% of the materials used to make batteries. The company has been working for years with external partners to improve its capabilities in this regard, all in the hope of reducing the environmental impact of the manufacturing process, including the extraction of materials such as cobalt, which are essential in the production of new batteries.
Indeed, Tesla has never tried to avoid the topic of the environmental cost of producing lithium-ion batteries, which emits 61-106 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents for every kilowatt hour of battery capacity produced. That’s why such improvements in recyclability are so important to electric car manufacturers, and are treated on par with issues such as improving passenger safety and autonomous driving systems. Notably, in 2019, Tesla’s co-founder Jeffrey Brian Straubel decided to leave the company and start a new one dedicated to recycling batteries from electric cars, called Redwood Materials.
As Tesla points out in a published report: – The company’s batteries are designed to outlive the vehicle itself. That’s why only a small fraction of Tesla batteries – even those from nearly 9-year-old Model S cars – have been retired. However, Tesla reports that its manufacturing plants are beginning to use closed-loop recycling systems that recycle 100% of the used batteries received by the company, thus recovering up to 92% of the raw metals used. Such systems can be found in the Gigafactory Nevada, and soon also in the company’s German factory:
– As a manufacturer of our own batteries, we are in the best position to efficiently recycle our products to maximize the recovery of key production materials, the company explains, indicating that the process will go global over time. There are also some concrete numbers, so that we know that Tesla is currently able to recover raw materials from a 1,000 kWh battery to produce a 921 kWh battery, which means reusing 92% of the materials. The report also shows that the company recovered a total of 1,300 tons of nickel, 400 tons of copper and 80 tons of cobalt last year.